In 2012, two very different museums exhibits, one in Singapore and one in Qatar, dramatically brought to light different dimensions of the historic maritime silk route connecting China and the Persian Gulf. The exhibit in Singapore displayed an extraordinary collection of 9th century ceramic objects that had been custom-made for Persian Gulf markets in kilns spread throughout China. The objects were recovered from a shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia that was discovered in 1998 and offered heretofore unknown evidence of the extent of the early China-Persian Gulf trade. The exhibit in Qatar on the other hand, was the first one by a Chinese artist in the Middle East. It included a range of monumental works of art created by Cai Guo-qiang that were inspired by the history of Arab and Persian traders who had settled in his hometown, Quanzhou, beginning in the Song period.
This talk by Dr. Jacqueline M. Armijo (Harvard University) will discuss both the extent and range of the early trade along China’s maritime silk routes, as well Cai Guo-qiang’s ability to capture and shed light on the lives of the myriad of Muslim traders who settled in China over the centuries, and their role in the history of Islam in China.
Image credit: Map by Virginia W. Mason and Lisa R. Ritter, National Geographic Staff.
Free and open to the public